Bigger, taller and maybe even...better?

A four-story, mixed-use building envisioned along what is now the alley on Winslow Way’s north side. - Courtesy of Winslow Tomorrow
A four-story, mixed-use building envisioned along what is now the alley on Winslow Way’s north side.
— image credit: Courtesy of Winslow Tomorrow

Should the city be a ‘partner’ in the redevelopment of downtown?

Architect Sean Parker’s vision of Winslow’s future includes a more engaged city government, actively shaping the character of downtown.

“Much of the healthy urban development that’s gone on around the country has taken place where the municipality has taken an active role,” Parker said.

“The city needs to move past just providing basic infrastructure, like roads and sewers, and into things like parking facilities, open spaces, museums and cultural venues.”

Parker helped craft a number of designs at the recent charrette sponsored by the city for Winslow Tomorrow. One of the guiding principles to come out of the two-day event included the notion that the city should “regulate to stimulate” and become an “active partner with investors.”

For Parker, this means offering developers some of the things they want in exchange for amenities that benefit the public as a whole.

As an example, Parker said the city could grant a developer the right to build higher than is typically allowed and forgo parking requirements, in exchange for offering residents lower-priced housing and a small public park.

In this scenario, the city’s planning department would need to take a hands-on, guiding approach. Planners would envision solutions to current or future problems and have the authority to build agreements with developers that could lead to parking garages, parks or plazas built with the community’s values in mind.

“Right now, the city’s in a reactive mode,” Parker said. “It’s sitting and waiting for someone to show up and say what they want to do.”

Without a collaborative, incentives-based approach, making Winslow Tomorrow’s goals a reality will be a tough battle, said architect and charrette participant Charlie Wenzlau.

“The Winslow Master Plan and Winslow Tomorrow show us a vision of more (ground-level) retail, upper level residences and a series of public spaces woven into the fabric of downtown,” he said. “Unless we loosen the rules, we won’t get these better results.”

Parker and Wenzlau would like to see more flexibility in crafting future growth, rather than a blanket approach.

Current regulations require developers to pay to raise allowable square footage or height within a regulated zone. Rather than asking for cash, Wenzlau advocates making deals with the developers that help achieve the city’s goals.

“This is the heart and soul of what we need to do to make sure Winslow stays on a human level,” he said.

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Downtown visions

This is the third in a series of articles exploring the results of the Winslow Tomorrow design charrette, and how the princlples that emerged from that event may inform downtown planning.

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